More Rules That Aren't


In an earlier article I challenged some common usage myths. I have more, which I lifted from Bill Walsh's theslot.com:

Myth: Got is a dirty word. Often, there are more elegant ways of saying what you mean. But don't let yourself be so consumed with hatred for this workhorse of a word that you reflexively reach for longer words: Obama obtained 38 percent of the vote in Iowa? No. Obama received 38 percent of the vote in Iowa? Fine, but I don't think it's worth the extra ink and paper compared with Obama got 38 percent of the vote in Iowa.

Myth: Fast and slow cannot be used as adverbs. Quickly has its place, but it shouldn't be an automatic search-and-replace substitute for fast. Maybe I want to finish the meeting quickly so I can get home and watch Law & Order, but when I get in my car to make that happen, I drive fast. (Nobody drives quickly.)

Myth: Over and under refer only to physical relationships. Nonsense. I'm under 50, and sometimes I drive over 55 mph.

Myth: Fewer cannot be used with countable things. Well, there's countable and then there's countable. Measurements such as age and money, for example, often don't translate to discrete units. You probably make less than $1 million a year, and you hope you don't have less than six months to live.

Myth: Between can be used only when just two items are involved. On the beach you feel the sand between your toes, even if you have four or five of them. You might travel between three continents; to travel among sounds silly.

Myth: Always different from, never different than. Sometimes the than idiom is the only way different can work. Ali is different now than he was when he was the champion. There's no reason to muck up that sentence by making it different now from the way he was when he was the champion.

Myth: Never use a hyphen after a word ending in -ly. That guideline applies only to adverbs ending in those letters, so family-run business is fine. And beware of adjectives that take the -ly suffix: Manly and likely, among others, are not adverbs.

And then there are some gray areas . . .

Here are some claims that aren't so popular among purists:
Is media plural? When it's referring to more than one medium, yes. When it's referring to the press and its electronic equivalents, well, ask yourself this: Is Dan Rather a medium? Are you a medium? If you can substitute the word press for media, it's singular.
Can host be a verb? It's clear, it's well established, and the alternative (play host to?) is clunky.